POLITICIANS AND ACADEMICS SAY ‘DANGEROUS’ MOVE INDICATES NCPO’S INTENTION TO CLING TO POWER AND LEGITIMISE UNDEMOCRATIC RULE
PRIME MINISTER GENERAL Prayut Chan-o-cha’s latest efforts to survey people’s thoughts on politics with six controversial questions appeared to be an attempt not only to set a political agenda but also to legitimise the junta’s rule despite it being undemocratic, politicians and academics have concluded.
The comments came one day after the prime minister refused to rule out the possibility of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) setting up a military-backed party to contest the next elections.
Prayut abruptly came up with the six questions himself when he was attending a meeting yesterday morning at Government House and then made additional comments on the release of the questions a few hours later.
The new tack came shortly after the NCPO was criticised for maintaining the political ban although the political party bill has been implemented and the mourning period for the late King Rama IX has ended.
The questions are Prayut’s second “survey” after the first earlier this year. The previous questions, which required respondents to answer in person at Damrongdhamma centres, elicited about 1 million responses.
However, the government has not released a report on the outcome of the survey.
The earlier four questions were viewed as leading respondents to disapprove of politicians and cast doubt on Thailand’s democratic system. The six new questions follow a similar pattern – but with a stronger tone.
In one question, Prayut asks if he or the junta has the right to support any party they chose, while another elaborated on the junta government’s performance over three years before asking people if they see a better future as a result.Abhisit Vejjajiva
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said he viewed Prayut’s questions, which constituted a non-scientific survey, as instigating conflict for no purpose.
“Constitutional mechanisms to create good governance have been ongoing, so there is no need to pose such questions,” Abhisit said in a radio interview on FM 101. “This will only create more confrontation.”
Rather, the former prime minister said, Prayut should ask the public about the junta’s objective performance, especially regarding the declining economy, rather than pose political questions.
Abhisit also warned that if the NCPO uses its overwhelming power to support any party, it could constitute an abuse of power leading to a severe violation of good governance and democratic principles.
Key Pheu Thai Party figure Watana Muangsook said he believed that Prayut, who seized power in the 2014 coup, had no right to ask such questions to the public at all.
“He still casts doubts on politicians, although political mechanisms should have been ready by now,” Watana said. “We would like to move to be prepare for the election, not clash with anyone. How could we create any insecurity as claimed by Prayut?”
Independent political academic Trakoon Meechai said he believed the questions were asked based on an underestimation of the potential public backlash, particularly given speculation that the junta wanted to cling to power after the election.
The questions were leading, seeking answers legitimising the junta and discrediting politicians, Trakoon said. Ultimately, the questions were asking if it is okay for the junta to maintain a lingering political influence by backing a political party.
“This method of ensuring one’s own legitimacy may differentiate any emerging party submitted by the NCPO from those parties backed by the military in the past,” Trakoon said. “But it will be very dangerous for the junta itself to publicly show this kind of intention.”